Deputy Secretary-General Warns Earth Likely to Overshoot Climate Targets by 2040s, Calls for ‘Final Push’ to Limit Warming ahead of 2020 Conference

5 April 2018

Deputy Secretary-General Warns Earth Likely to Overshoot Climate Targets by 2040s, Calls for ‘Final Push’ to Limit Warming ahead of 2020 Conference

Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Climate Retreat in New York today:

This is the first of the series of informal consultations we are planning in the lead‑up to the 2019 Climate Summit and the critical Paris Agreement milestone of 2020.  It is increasingly clear that climate action is urgent.  As the Secretary‑General has said, climate change is running faster than we are.  Unless we implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and its commitments, we will not bend the emissions curve nor achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The information from recent global reports continues to confirm the complexity and urgency of the challenge we face.  The Paris Agreement calls on countries to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 C above pre‑industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 C.  Last year’s United Nations Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report tells us that current pledges under the nationally determined contributions cover only about one third of the emissions reductions needed to be on course for keeping temperature rise below 2 C.  The State of Climate Change report issued by the World Meteorological Organization confirms that the economic costs of climate‑related disasters hit a record $320 billion last year.  The World Bank’s Groundswell report shows that climate change has already emerged as a major driver of migration.  And the International Energy Agency reports that energy‑related carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4 per cent last year to 32.5 gigatons — a historic high.

We still see enormous subsidies for fossil fuels.  According to the International Monetary Fund, energy subsidies in 2015 amounted to $5.3 trillion — or 6.5 per cent of global gross domestic product.  The upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “1.5 report” [Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees Celsius] will likely tell us that, even in a negative emissions scenario, there is “a very high risk” the planet’s warming will overshoot 1.5 C by the 2040s.

As you can see, the pace of climate change is relentless.  Our response must be equally resolute.  The alternative is climate catastrophe for all, with those least able to recover being hit worst — notably the small island nations and the least developing countries.  If we do not act urgently and decisively we risk reaching a tipping point of no return.  That is why the Secretary‑General wants to reinvigorate global efforts towards bending the emissions curve by 2020.  What that entails is at least another 25 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020 to ensure that emissions of carbon dioxide do not exceed 42 gigatons by 2030.

Our task is to take this challenge head‑on.  The Secretary‑General’s decision to convene a Climate Summit in 2019 is aimed at accelerating progress to get back on track and ramping up ambition and action in time for the 2020 United Nations climate conference [Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change].  We know that progress depends on dramatic policy change by the big emitters and the urgent implementation of the nationally determined contributions.  We must create the momentum for the ambition the nationally determined contributions represent to be raised in accordance with the demands of science that will be sufficient to bend the emissions curve.  So, the foremost question before you is how to mobilize leaders at all levels and across the public and private sectors towards the common objective of advancing implementation and scaling up national and global ambition.

From my perspective, the 2019 summit should act as a “push moment” to applaud progress achieved by party and non‑party stakeholders, while pushing the last mile to the 2020 targets.  It should bring global attention to existing cost‑effective solutions, job opportunities and technology at its best.  And it should set out the argument for how ambition and accelerated action for mitigation and adaptation by all actors in 2020 can be achieved.  In concrete terms, that means enhancing political will at all levels.  To that end, I would like to highlight four “must dos” for your deliberation.

First is the need for improving our communication in highlighting the challenge of climate change as well as the development dividends of addressing it.  Despite the communication revolution around us and host of social and media platforms to communicate the urgency of action, we are still falling short of catalysing the necessary political action and behavioural change.

Second is incentivizing Governments to act on strengthening adaptation and climate resilience to address the risks that climate change poses.  Third is articulating scientifically the link between climate and peace and security, and integrating the development solutions to address current challenges.  We need to make it more clear that climate change is a massive threat multiplier.  We must find leadership on this issue.

Fourth, we need to regain trust in the global leadership by mobilizing finance.  We are still struggling to mobilize the $100 billion per year that was promised to the developing countries, even though it is clear that the costs of inaction are far greater.  A structural economic shift towards low‑carbon resilient economic growth requires trillions of dollars.  Private finance is crucial, public financing remains the key to unlocking it.  We know much work has been done, but it requires bringing the two together for results now.  Mobilizing people to act on the emerging picture of climate change calls for renewed effort.  My office has been working closely with all of you.

Your presence today represents the value and importance that we attach to your work and partnership.  I hope these consultations will address how we can collectively work to define the level of ambition needed from all, and how the role of the Secretary‑General can be leveraged to achieve that ambition.  The Secretary‑General is keen to ensure that we plot a robust track to 2019 and beyond.  We count on your wise leadership.

For information media. Not an official record.